Power Plant regeneration Inner Harbor landmark: Experienced developer likely to succeed where others failed.

November 18, 1995

NOTHING SUCCEEDS like success. That's why the Schmoke administration, after several false starts, has selected the Baltimore-based Cordish Co. to revive a padlocked Inner Harbor landmark called the Power Plant.

Cordish Co.?

Unlike such other prominent Maryland development firms as the Rouse Co. and Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse, the 27-year-old Cordish Co. is not a household name in its hometown. Even though it owns quite a bit of real estate here, its major projects have been elsewhere.

From Niagara Falls and Detroit to Salt Lake City and Houston, Cordish has built retail and entertainment complexes that have contributed to downtown revitalization. It now hopes to repeat -- JTC those successes at Power Plant, a turn-of-the-century electric generation station that has been a redevelopment headache for a succession of city administrations since the 1970s.

The Cordish concepts calls for spending $18 million to turn this failed indoor amusement park into an emporium that will include nationally known retailers, nightclubs and performance spaces as well as theme restaurants. Because of the flexibility of the formula, its Metropolis at the Power Plant could cater primarily to families in the daytime and then shift into adult entertainment after dark.

Of the three proposals, the Cordish Co.'s was easily the strongest. While the rivals advocated sports and virtual-reality themes, their ideas seemed to have the same weakness as the indoor theme park Six Flags unsuccessfully tried at the Power Plant: Would anyone be drawn to them for repeat visits?

The Cordish proposal addresses that question by referring to other downtowns, where steady crowds are drawn into centers that have obliterated the traditional separation between retail and entertainment. Indeed, stores like Borders, Planet Music and Virgin Records are increasingly difficult to categorize. They are retail, but the entertainment ingredient is so strong they can also be venues for dates.

Cordish's involvement comes at a crucial time. With the Columbus Center soon to open its exhibits next door and a children's museum being developed nearby, the Inner Harbor is poised to expand to the east. All that will be easier, if the Power Plant is a winner.

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